Happy Hallowe’en (or else)

I remember the Hallowe’en of my childhood when most people remembered that it’s a contraction for hallowed evening and left the apostrophe where it belongs. Kids, except for the very youngest, went around the neighborhood alone or in groups rather than going from street to street in a parent’s car (that would creep along while the kids rang doorbells). I remember when Hallowe’en was always celebrated on the 31st rather than being moved by law or proclamation by the city council to the nearest weekend day. And, I remember when a lot of kids saw it as a night to go out trickin’, which meant throwing eggs, tossing toilet paper up in the trees and messing up windows and screen by drawing on them with bars of soap.

I suppose when you’re my age (you’ll know it when you get there), you’ll remember Hallowe’en as it is now instead of what it will probably turn into: banned or structured into Hallowe’en walks through selected parts of the town. It’s sad, I guess that progress has been forced to focus more and more on the predators that appear on the streets every year. Hell, you can go to jail if you allow your kid to walk or ride a bike to school.

When I was a kid, we’d have a hundred or maybe a hundred and fifty trick-or-treaters a night–often more. When we lived in a small town on the other side of Georgia, we were surprised if we had fifty–that, in spite of the pickup trucks bring in kids from neighborhoods far away. Now we live on a rural road and haven’t seen a trick-or-treater for five years.

When I was a kid, I thought Hallowe’en was fun. I suppose it was the candy and, to some extent, the costumes. As I got older, I hated it because I had better things to do than jump up from whatever I was doing every five to ten minutes to answer the doorbell and hand out candy. But, that was only fair since I rang a lot of doorbells and disrupted the evenings of a lot of adults when I was little.

I liked the little kids best since they were shy or joyful. I disliked the teenagers who thought they were entitled to all the candy in my basket and to hell with whoever came to my door after they left. I was proud of the African American and Korean [Korean is Georgia’s second language] parents who were brave enough to bring their children to a predominantly white neighborhood. I tended to be somewhat cranky with people who thought it was okay to ring my doorbell after 10 p.m.

And that reminds me, why is it now a standard to remove the periods from the “p. m.”? More lazy English, I think. But I refuse to change. I’m going to keep putting those periods there for the same reason I keep putting the hyphen in co-operation. (That hyphen had a purpose: it told you that “coop” wasn’t pronounced like a chicken coop but as two syllables.)

But, I digress.





November 1 is an auspicious release date for ‘Sarabande’

Click on graphic to watch trailer
Click on graphic to watch trailer

The new second edition of my contemporary fantasy Sarabande will be released by Thomas-Jacob Publishing on November 1. This is the perfect day to begin the life of a book with a ghost.

Traditionally, the fire festival of Samhain (pronounced SAH-win)–now commercialized into Hallowe’en)–sits within a period of the year of “no time or space” because it’s a boundary. Ancient traditions view boundaries and other threshholds as liminal in a magical sense because they take on some of the characteristics of both sides of the figurative doorway.

SarabandeCover2015Samhain is a boundary between the summer and winter, days of sun god and the moon goddess, and saying goodbye to the last harvest and hello to the dark days of winter. Perhaps you’ve heard it said that the veil between the world of the living and world of the dead is thin on Hallowe’en. It’s more an altered state of mind, really, at a time directly between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, half a year of way from the May celebration of Beltane.

In my novel, the protagonist Sarabande decides that the only way to stop her dead sister Dryad from haunting her is to travel to the place where Dryad resides. So it is that Sarabande’s  journey is tied to the cycles of the moon and very much on perceiving and confronting a denizen of the underworld.

When my publisher and I started talking about bringing Sarabande back into print, we didn’t have a November 1st release date in mind. That’s just how all the updating, editing, and formatting came out. That’s one way of looking at a story with a ghostly antagonist.

There’s also another way of looking at it. The threshold spirits have their own schedule, and they know that November 1st stands dead center in a magical time period. Night and the Goddess of Night are giving this edition a bit of a supernatural nudge and I appreciate it.

I hope you do, too.






Kick the Bucket on Hallowe’en

from “Jock Talks Satirical News”

Kick the Bucket on Hallowe’en


Jock Stewart

Special Investigative Reporter

cemeteryJunction City, TX—Frank N. Stein, owner and operator of the Ghost-of-a-Chance Cemetery at 666 Deadline Road plans a Death by Chocolate Hallowe’en for kids trick-or-treating at “death’s door.”

“This year, we’ll be handing out our usual death bells, death watches, and door-nails to everyone who knocks at the Death’s Door entrance to the cemetery,” said Stein. “We’re especially excited about this year’s ASK NOT FOR WHOM THE OPEN GRAVE CALLS gala. I think we’re going to top last year’s BABY, CAN YOU HEAR DEATH’S RATTLE sing-along.”

Chief gravedigger T. Stone, who laughingly claims he’s the only one on the premises who knows where all the bodies are buried, said he almost worked himself into an early grave getting all the holes dug in time.

“I’m death-warmed-over exhausted,” he said, “but I’ll be cheating the grim reaper again by
Monday night.”

According to a dead letter posted at the cemetery door, every kid who successfully kicks a plastic bucket of dead men’s fingers into an open grave from six feet away will be presented with a “Dead Weight of Chocolate.”

“Most of them aren’t real dead men’s fingers,” said Stein. “We chopped up a bunch of old mannequins and littered the pieces around the place to scare the life out of the younger kids. We had enough dead hands left over to pretty much give everyone the finger.”

“I practiced kicking the bucket all afternoon,” Stone said, “and it’s not as easy as you think. Those kids will have to use a little dead reckoning to get it in the grave.”

Plans to offer vodka labeled as embalming fluid were deep-sixed once the Deadline Road Homeowners Association got wind of it and raised a stink.

bucketart“We don’t mind the spirits so much as the thought of hearing the words of that hideous old song ‘National Embalming School’ blasting away all night loud enough to wake the dead,” said association president Darla Norris. “We’re not teetotalers out here. After all, we snapped up our share of the icy sixpacks they gave away during the CRYING IN MY BIER festival three years ago.”

Ghost-of-a-Chance began inviting trick-or-treaters onto cemetery grounds 25 years ago when Stein’s father Charles announced that he could no longer afford to “buy enough deadlights and deadlocks to keep out the deadbeats who sneak in every year to knock over a tombstone or two after knocking up their girlfriends.”

Norris, who has lived on Deadline Road for 26 years, said that almost everyone in her neighborhood was conceived as a Hallowe’en trick in the years before “old Charlie Stein made vandalism a dead issue while making death and cemeteries a real treat again.”

The police department’s Dead-to-Rights Hallowe’en Task Force will work the graveyard shift again this year to provide security and to pick up anyone who is dead drunk. Doctors from Memorial Hospital will be on hand to assist anyone who gets one foot caught in the grave. Overflow parking will be available in Potter’s field.

“We’ll be dead to the world by the time the night’s over,” Stein said. “It’s worth it, though. We’re putting the boot back into boot hill to make life better for kids in the here and now while reminding their aging parents to consider us in their plans for the hereafter.”

# # #

jtsatnewsA selection of the good, the weird, and the utterly insane of investigative reporter Jock Stewart’s news stories and Night Beat columns.

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We’re Throwing Eggs at Dads Again This Year

Guest Post by Trick Falls

With Halloween approaching faster than a bat out of hell, my brother Pratt, my sister Niagara and I are making plans once again to gas up Dad’s old Packard for our yearly pilgrimage to One Egg, Alabama for some hard fried trick or treat fun.

Throwing Eggs at Dads began in 1957 when three fresh-face graduates from reform school (my siblings and I) borrowed Dad’s two-tone baby blue and white 1956 Packard Clipper Touring Sedan for some Halloween fun. Fifteen or twenty large sacks of Candy Corn later, we ended up in Alabama’s Houston County with a trunk load of Piggly Wiggly eggs.

Niagara, who was wearing an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini, discovered that 98.6% of the Dads walking their kids around the small town of One Egg were more interested in her tricks than their children’s treats. Just when things were getting really interesting, Pratt and I would hit the poor slobs with a barrage of jumbo eggs.

In the resulting chaos, the kids dropped their candy, we scooped it up and roared off down the road.

The dads, most of whom were in the serious business of growing cotton, corn and peanuts along the road to Cottonwood, had never been egged on by a pretty girl before, so as the years went by, they began looking forward to the “sweet lady who tempts us to take an egg shower.”

It stood to reason, something like this would ultimately happen in One Egg because the town was founded in 1942 by Norfolk Grey after he was run out of Two Egg, Florida for “being a bad egg” and smelling like sulfur when he passed gas in the general store.

Niagara was so popular with the One Egg dads that she began to get innocently provocative pen pal letters from them stating that a Halloween without Niagara was like a fried egg sandwich without mayo.

Pratt, who was disgusted with the idea of stealing kids candy after he got fat in the early 1960s wanted to quit making the trips. Fortunately, we had enough blackmail material to keep him driving that Packard up and down highway 53 year after year after year.

Early on, Niagara’s fame down in Houston County was such that her bikini inspired a song that reached the top of the charts. Today, as the nation’s number two Viagra salesman, Niagara dangles the bottom half of that old bathing suit from her rear view mirror to bring her good luck. Most of the prospective customers who meet her at Waffle Houses and truck stops across the country don’t mind getting a little egg on their face while buying their meds.

This year, our custom bumper sticker for the Clipper will say, “Scrambling Dads for Sweets.” Pratt designed it and, truth be told, he’s very proud of his work.

As for yours truly, I’ll be the driver again on this year’s caper since my trick knee causes me to fall whenever I try to run away from anything. Sure, we’re almost too old for this kind of stunt, but the now-grown-up children of the dads we egged on in those days of yesteryear would never forgive us if we didn’t trick them again while shouting, “The Yolk’s On You, Sugar Daddy.”

Trick Falls is one of the secret pen names of the author of “Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire,” a satire in which an ass-kicking reporter finds humorous ways to insure his town’s corrupt politicians always have egg on their faces.